(courtesy of Jonathan Vincent)
by William Gillespie
Though I was too young to understand and articulate my objections, I was annoyed to discover at age 20 that everyone in my age range had been declared “slackers” by the ruling generation, the Baby Boomers. I hadn’t even been given a chance to excel in life, and already I was indicted by a blanket statement that declared me apathetic and unambitious. “Generation X” was not exactly flattering either — the seldom-used twenty-fourth letter, the algebraic variable X, implied alienation and emptiness.
By calling us slackers, was the preceding generation trying to falsely claim as tenacity or integrity the coincidence of their good fortune as people who rode the roller coaster of postwar American prosperity from the bottom, where they were born, to the top, where they would be the last people to cash in on a soon-to-be-dismantled private and state retirement apparatus? (And, incidentally, which generation fucked that up? I’m pissed.)
What I am discovering is that “slacker” means “principled.“ We witnessed our elders’ arc from unrestrained idealism (1967) to burnout (1969) to grotesque self-indulgence (1976) to unapologetic materialism (1980); from cannabis to LSD to cocaine to imported wine; from psychedelic pop to mustache jam-band rock to disco to new age; from “Don’t trust anybody over thirty” to “Fifty is the new thirty.“ Against the backdrop of this circus, X inherited those progressive ideals (and great songs) from 1967, and the stewardship and advancement of the environmental, civil rights, and feminist ideologies. And so we found ourselves all but paralyzed with the Boomers’ cast-off responsibilities: the fear of becoming self-centered, obnoxious materialists, or just totally lame; and the imperative to find meaningful work in an economic system driven by greed, waste, and consumerism.
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